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New Study Suggests Large Percentage of COVID-19 Cases in U.S. Went Undetected in March

A new study in Science Translational Medicine claims as many as 8.7 million Americans were infected with COVID-19 in March, but more than 80% of them were never diagnosed.

The estimate comes from a review of cases where patients went to the doctor with influenza-like illnesses that were never diagnosed as coronavirus, influenza or any of the other viruses that usually circulate in winter. Only 100,000 novel coronavirus cases were officially reported during that time period. 

The study can be found at this link.

More information about the study can be found in this report from CNN.

Study Shows Steroid Reduces Deaths Among Patients With Severe COVID-19

For the first time, a therapy has been shown to possibly improve the survival odds for patients suffering from the most severe cases of COVID-19. In a large study, the steroid drug dexamethasone was shown to reduce deaths by a third in patients hospitalized with the novel coronavirus. The full data has yet to be published. 

Some experts quickly celebrated the results. However, others including surgeon, writer and public health researcher Atul Gawande has urged caution. He responded by tweeting, “after all the retractions and walk backs, it is unacceptable to tout study results by press release without releasing the paper.”

Additional details can be found in this story published by STAT News.

NIH Launches COVID-19 Patient Data Platform to Speed Treatments

The National Institutes of Health today announced it has launched a centralized database to store and study medical record data generated from patients nationwide who have been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus. The program is part of the National COVID Cohort Collaborative (N3C).  The effort aims to rapidly translate clinical information into increased knowledge about COVID-19 in order to better diagnose, track and treat the disease. 

More information can be found in this press release from the NIH.

NIH Scientists Identify Features That Differentiate SARS-CoV-2 From Other Coronaviruses

According to a press release issued today by the National Institutes of Health, researchers from the National Library of Medicine have identified key genomic features of SARS-CoV-2 that distinguish it from other members of the coronavirus family. The NIH says the research could be a crucial step in helping scientists develop approaches to predict, by genome analysis alone, the severity of future coronavirus disease outbreaks and detect animal coronaviruses that have the potential to infect humans. 

The findings were published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 

Here’s a link to the NIH press release containing additional information.   

Worth Reading – Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Here are a few recent COVID-19 articles that we think are worth reading. 

Physician, biologist, oncologist and author Siddhartha Mukherjee hosted a roundtable discussion in the New York Times with a variety of experts. The topic: Can a COVID-19 vaccine truly be developed in a matter of months vs. years? The experts highlighted the progress made to date and spoke at length several times about the importance of animal studies. The article can be found at this link.

Also worth reading today: 

NBC Boston: No Evidence That Pets Play Significant Role in Spread of COVID-19, CDC Says

NIH: Study identifies potential approach to treat severe respiratory distress in patients with COVID-19 (more…)

What We’re Reading About COVID-19 – Monday, June 1, 2020

Here are a few articles that might be of interest:

General News 

There are concerns the protests we are seeing across the nation and around the globe following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police will set off another COVID-19 wave. The mayor of Los Angeles is concerned the gatherings will become “super spreader” events.  

Of course, one of the major challenges of the novel coronavirus is the fact that some people can unknowingly be carriers. The BBC recently published a story about this unique and troubling aspect of the disease. 

Research News 

Eli Lilly says it has started human trials of an antibody therapy designed to treat COVID-19. Results are expected in late June.  (more…)

Pew Poll: Trust in Medical Scientists Grows in U.S.

According to a new national survey by Pew Research Center, Americans’ confidence in health scientists has grown since the COVID-19 outbreak first began. Furthermore, most U.S. adults think the outbreak increases the importance of scientific developments.

Those who said they have a “a great deal of confidence” in medical scientists to act in the public’s best interests has gone up from 35% before the outbreak to 43%. A large percentage of respondents (46%) said they currently have “a fair amount” of confidence that scientists will act in the public’s best interests.  

However, the polling data also reflects growing partisan divisions over the risk the novel coronavirus poses to public health, as well as public confidence in the scientific and medical community and the role such experts are playing in public policy.

Additional details about the Pew poll can be found at this link.

White House Unveils New Vaccine Effort

The White House today formally announced two men chosen to lead the country’s rapid vaccine development efforts. Earlier this week it was reported Moncef Slaoui, the ex-head of GlaxoSmithKline’s vaccines division, will lead the push alongside four-star Army General Gustave Perna. Slaoui will act as the chief adviser to the vaccine effort. Perna will serve as the chief operating officer overseeing logistics. Both of these individuals supplement the vaccine development efforts already underway by the federal government, including those tacking place at the National Institutes of Health.

More information:

Donald Trump unveils new vaccine effort – CNN

Drs. Collins, Fauci, Part authors of Science Article on Need for Coordinated COVID-19 Vaccine Strategy

A new opinion article published by Science today advocates for a “harmonized and collaborative approach to the clinical testing, scale-up and distribution of candidate vaccines to prevent COVID-19. ” The piece was penned by NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins, NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Lawrence Corey, a vaccine expert at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Dr. John R. Mascola, of the NIAID’s Vaccine Research Center. 

The authors suggest more than one effective vaccine approach will likely be required to successfully protect the global community from SARS-CoV-2. Their article also describes a strategic approach aimed at generating the data required to develop multiple vaccine candidates in parallel.

The writers emphasize developing COVID-19 vaccines will require unprecedented cooperation from governments, academic institutions, industry and global philanthropic partners. The Science article also repeatedly refers to the importance of animal studies in developing effective COVID-19 vaccines. It can be found at this link.

Video Sneak Peek: The Many Ways Animal Research Will Help End the Pandemic

We just added the finishing touches to our latest video in our COVID-19 series. This one looks at the many ways animal research will help bring an end to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

It likely comes as no surprise that the video highlights the role of animal studies in identifying treatments and developing vaccines. But that’s not all. We also investigate how animal-based research is providing important information about SARS-CoV-2: where it came from and whether our bodies can learn to defend themselves against it. Other portions of the video are dedicated to efforts to address the ventilator shortage and concerns about becoming infected by pet animals.     

We’ll be sharing the video widely next week. However, we placed it online today to give you an early sneak peek:

The video can also be found on YouTube and Vimeo. Links below. Feel free to share it widely as soon as you like! 

YouTube link:

Vimeo link: